Why nuts can protect blood sugar and cholesterol health in type 2 diabetes

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Researchers at the University of Toronto have uncovered potential dietary changes that could benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

Their study suggests that replacing carbohydrates with nuts could help control blood sugar levels.

Nuts, known for their hard shell and edible kernels, include varieties like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts.

These simple dry fruits have long been recognized for their health benefits, including weight management and protection against chronic diseases.

In their latest research, the Toronto team specifically explored the impact of mixed nuts as a source of unsaturated fats on heart disease risk and blood sugar control in diabetic individuals.

The study also examined how nut consumption influenced blood clotting and levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol.

The research involved 117 older men and women, all managing their type 2 diabetes with oral glucose-lowering medication. Participants were divided into three dietary groups over a three-month period.

The first group followed a “full-dose nut diet,” consuming 75 grams of mixed nuts daily. The second group ate three whole-wheat muffins totaling 188 grams per day, designed to match the protein content of the nuts and the carbohydrate energy content to the monounsaturated fat energy in the nuts.

The third group consumed a “half-dose nut diet,” which included half-portions of both nuts and muffins.

Results from the study showed that the full-dose nut diet increased energy intake from monounsaturated fats more than the muffin diet did. Importantly, participants on the full-dose nut diet also experienced lower blood sugar levels and significant reductions in LDL cholesterol compared to those on the muffin diet.

These findings suggest that a diet rich in nuts could help improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, the researchers noted that not all nuts offer the same health benefits. For example, almonds are particularly high in calcium and other vital nutrients.

Pecans are a good source of dietary fiber, which aids digestion, while macadamia nuts are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Walnuts are known for their high content of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 essential fatty acid beneficial for heart health.

While the study presents promising findings, one participant on the half-dose nut diet experienced a heart rhythm issue after physical exertion, though no other serious adverse events related to the study were reported.

This underscores the need for individual assessment of dietary changes, especially for those with existing health conditions.

The researchers concluded that substituting carbohydrates with nuts leads to better control of blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetics.

They also suggested that future research should explore how different types of nuts might specifically benefit individuals with diabetes in various ways.

Published in the journal Diabetologia, this study by David J A Jenkins and colleagues adds to the growing body of evidence that diet plays a crucial role in managing type 2 diabetes and suggests that incorporating a variety of nuts into the diet could be a strategic part of managing the condition.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about plant nutrients that could help reduce high blood pressure, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

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